Ushuaia, Argentina

Last Station: End of the World


On hold
Passengers wait in carriages during one of the panoramic stops on the Ushuaia - End of the World Station
Pipo the Prisoner
Pipo, an extra who brings to mind the prisoners who were the original passengers.
wave
Stuart Anderson, the Canadian director of Tren del Fim del Mundo waves to another station employee
steam curve
Composition of the Tren del Fin del Mundo rises from the middle of the southern beech forest.
The pressure
Pressure gauges and dials from one of the locomotives that tow the Tren del Fin del Mundo.
To Command
Welsh engineer at the controls of one of the locomotives that serve the Tren del Fin del Mundo.
Retroview
Machinist examines the rear composition of the operating locomotive.
Great Swamp
Swamp in the vicinity of Lapataia Bay
Starter steam
Locomotive releases steam at the exit of one of the stations where the Tren del Fin del Mundo stops.
Almost there
Composition of the Tren del Fin del Mundo rounds another curve and approaches the terminal station.
stump landscape
Landscape full of stumps left by the railway incursions of prisoners from Ushuaia in search of firewood for the prison
Station Orchestra
Musicians play tango and tarantella classics and welcome Tren del Fin del Mundo passengers
melodies
Musician plays concertina as part of a host band at Estação do Fim do Mundo
End of the World Season
Placard announces the Estación del Fin del Mundo, located in the Pipo River valley, 8 km from the center of Ushuaia.
Station Reading
Waiter in the waiting room at the End of the World Station
Until 1947, the Tren del Fin del Mundo made countless trips for the inmates of the Ushuaia prison to cut firewood. Today, passengers are different, but no other train goes further south.

The reception of passengers makes it difficult to formulate a credible historical imagery. We are still 100 meters away and you can already hear the tango chords played by the musicians at the entrance.

And, arriving at the parking lot, we glimpsed the small orchestra dressed in black and melancholy, arranged against a wooden wall.

Musician at the End of the World Train Station, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Musicians play classic tango and tarantella and welcome passengers on the End of the World Train

Two violinists sharpen the melodies and struggle to follow the rhythm set by a South American Indian-looking double bass player, as two visibly unhappy concertina players do.

Passengers Entrance into the End of the World Season

Despite being given this way, in the faithful psycho-depressive fashion of Argentina, the welcome encourages visitors to Ushuaia, even if only because they are in the southernmost city in the world, and find themselves a mere 1000 km from Antarctica, they already have reason to celebrate.

As if that wasn't enough, they are getting ready to board one of the most emblematic trains on the face of the Earth to cross an unforgettable southern scene.

End of the World Train, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Train composition at the end of the World rounds another curve and approaches the terminal station.

Stuart, the Canadian stationmaster, broadcasts announcements in Spanish and English over the station's blaring loudspeakers. After a few, the team of “hosts” makes sure that no one is missing and the whistle signaling the match is given.

Representative of the End of the World Train, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Stuart Anderson, the Canadian director of Tren del Fim del Mundo waves to another station employee

Camila's Historic Locomotion

At the controls of a veteran machinist who is seasonally emigrated from Wales, Camila, the star locomotive of the Ferrocarril Austral Fuegino fleet, releases a dark cloud of smoke onto the roof of the building and another, white, of steam that envelops its base.

Driver of the End of the World Train, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Welsh engineer at the controls of one of the locomotives that serve the Tren del Fin del Mundo.

With effort, the old machine conquers the opening meters of the route. Meanwhile, in the VIP carriages, the first flutes of champagne are served and the corresponding toasts are made. Like the orchestra, the euphoria on board tarnishes the past.

End of the World Train, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Passengers wait in carriages during one of the panoramic stops on the Ushuaia – End of the World Station

The Times of Prisoner Exile at the End of the World

The short trip from the prison to the Antarctic beech groves that they had to cut down was one of the rare moments of relative freedom and communion of prisoners with the nature around them.

But the summer and good weather now enjoyed by visitors last little more than three months in Ushuaia and in Tierra del Fuego.

Many of their forays into the forest took place under unpleasant, sometimes extreme conditions, which they cursed with all the insulting vocabulary they knew, as did the axes and the endless logs that butchered their hands and backs.

End of the World Train, Tierra del Fuego, landscape with stumps, Argentina

Landscape full of stumps left by the railway incursions of prisoners from Ushuaia in search of firewood for the prison

Together, that train and its round trip, plus the cell and the exile in the back of South America constituted their punishment. And there was no point in escaping, because escapes to nowhere are doomed to failure.

The Precarious Origin of the Doomsday Prison in Ushuaia

At the end of the 1884th century, Argentina installed a penal colony in Ushuaia and the first customers arrived around XNUMX. Firewood was needed to heat them and wood to erect the buildings that would house those on their way.

The authorities thus embarked on a curious rail adventure where oxen pulled small wagons on wooden rails. Seven years later, the infrastructure still seemed too rudimentary to the governor and he ordered its replacement by Decauville rails with a gauge of 500 mm.

End of the World train, steam locomotive, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Locomotive releases steam at the exit of one of the stations where the Tren del Fin del Mundo stops.

Soon, a non-animal locomotive would tow carriages and hundreds of convicts along the coast, in front of the houses in Ushuaia, which was then being developed.

Before long, locals began to treat the strange composition as El Tren de Los Presos. At the time, although few knew it, the role of those passengers was twofold. In the image of your offenses.

Exiles with the end of a colonization by force

Tierra del Fuego remained unexplored, at the mercy of the territorial claims of the new Argentine and Chilean rival nations. Aware of the urgency, President Júlio Argentino Roca decided to kill two birds with one stone. It was inspired by the example of Port Arthur, in Tasmania, and exiled, there, repeated political or felony prisoners.

At the same time that it was free of the inconvenience, it kept those distant inhabited places, consolidating the legitimacy of the Argentine possession.

End of the World Train, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Composition of the Tren del Fin del Mundo rises from the middle of the southern beech forest.

The rails were lengthening in search of new forest to cut. In that time, more and more criminals had their last stop in Ushuaia. Many died there, others, rare, served their sentences and returned to their origins. Two, even more unique, escaped for a few weeks before being recaptured.

In 1947, the prison was decommissioned and replaced by a naval base. Two years later, the strong earthquake in Tierra del Fuego destroyed a large part of the railway.

From the Cruel Reality to the Extras that Entertain Tourists

Pipo uses the name of the river that, at intervals, runs along the rails. He was hired to retrieve the prisoner's character and plays his role in a blue and yellow striped prison uniform. He maintains a crestfallen posture of slight humiliation that doesn't deter tourists from eager to do their job.

Prisoner's Extra, End of the World Train, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Pipo, an extra who brings to mind the prisoners who were the original passengers.

On the way, they photographed the Fueginian landscape including Valle del Pico and the Macarena waterfall. Afterwards, they recorded with renewed enthusiasm the preserved scene of the thousands of stumps cut by the condemned.

Only the prisoners are missing and, in their absence, Pipo has to serve.

At the exit of the El Parque terminal station, dozens of small gleaming chambers frame it. And the extra accepts his punishment that, since the famous "casserole” from 2001, that Argentine pesos cost even more to win. “You know friends, there are days when I feel like the real prisoners. I have no possible escape.” He laments us, in a humorous tone, after ten minutes of conversation.

Do railroad to the vastness of Tierra del Fuego

It has nothing to do with car parking, the final landing of the railway. For passengers' delight and convenience, the entrance to Tierra del Fuego National Park and the last death throes of the Andes Mountains, with its distant mountains, always snowy, are just a short distance away.

Demanding explorers cross it who, among the relief, discover deep lakes, flooded shores claimed by communities of beavers and jagged and dramatic coastlines such as that of the Lapataia Bay. Onward, the long Beagle Channel.

End of the World Train, Tierra del Fuego, swamp at Lapataia Bay, Argentina

Swamp in the vicinity of Lapataia Bay

Many coordinate the return of these southern wanderings with the train schedule. They return to Ushuaia a few days later, tired but rewarded, aboard the Tren del Fin del Mundo.

Still willing to venture to the opposite end of the region to visit the Harberton resort, Tierra del Fuego's lonely and pioneer farm.

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